ST. JOHNS, Fla. – Two of the area’s top girls lacrosse teams are ready for their shot at state.
Bartram Trail (17-4) will face Tampa Plant (18-3) at 2:30 p.m. on Friday afternoon in the Class 2A state semifinals in Naples. Five hours later at 7:30, Ponte Vedra (14-4) collides with Lake Highland Prep (19-3) in the Class 1A semi. That the area has teams in both classifications still alive and chasing championships is a testament to just how much the sport has grown in the area.
Ponte Vedra beat another local program, Super 6 No. 1 Episcopal, in the regional final to punch its ticket to the state semifinals.
“I think it speaks volumes of the talent that we have in the north part of the state,” said Sharks coach Dan Toole. “And again, I’m excited for Bartram. I wish them well. And I hope, as I told [Bartram coach] Meg [Jackowiak] in a text message, I hope we bring the titles back up north.”
The area has grown considerably in being able to compete with the private schools in the south. Last year, the Bears knocked off a dynasty, Vero Beach, in an 8-7 classic for only the second girls lacrosse championship in area history.
Even with a major playmaker returning in Ryann Frechette, Bartram’s road back wasn’t easy.
“We had our ups and downs and some refocus points but it’s been really exciting. It’s been awesome to watch the girls grow this year,” Jackowiak said. “You know, even though we are the returning state champs and you have a target on our back, we had a lot of different girls step up this year after losing eight seniors. So, to be able to get back here. It’s just really exciting.”
Both teams can thank tough schedules and some resilience in getting here. Bartram endured a unusual three-game losing streak this season, including a 12-9 loss to Episcopal. Jackowiak said that lull helped refuel Bartram for its stretch run.
The Sharks and the Bears are the only two local programs to ever play for a championship. Ponte Vedra has finished as state runner-up twice (2014-15. The Bears lost to Vero Beach in 2013 and beat them in 2016 before returning last year to do it again. The Sharks had their pockets of challenges, although lost just once to a local team (Bartram).
“I think everyone just did a really good job stepping up to the role that we needed them to be,” said Bartram senior Peyton Morris. “And I think everyone realized that they needed to step up and we’ve been doing really well working together.”
Players from both teams say the local competition and being able to compete during difficult regular season schedules has proven that teams in the area can continue to flourish.
“The sport has really grown. And it’s become way more competitive throughout and everyone’s taking it super seriously,” said Ponte Vedra senior Jenna Lewin. “And it’s great that there’s so much involvement around here.”